Browsing articles tagged with " Data Loss"

Rob Ford’s Achilles Data Management

Feb 26, 2014   //   by Karen Lopez   //   Blog, Data, Data Governance, DLBlog, Snark  //  No Comments

Mayor Ford CC 2.0 http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:MTLskyline

I don’t usually blog about politics here, but when bad data management and bad people mix, it’s time for a post…

Toronto Star reporter Robyn Doolittle has reported that my world famous (infamous?) mayor Rob Ford, may have lost all the data from his previous election campaign.

Councillor Doug Ford claims the mayor’s former campaign manager, Nick Kouvalis, is refusing to turn over valuable 2010 voter database information.

Kouvalis, who also served for a time as Ford’s chief of staff, is now working for the John Tory campaign. The man who actually ran the database aspect of Rob Ford’s first mayoral campaign says the Fords were given everything right after the election.

“I made two DVDs with all of the data from the campaign — entire voters’ list with contact info, supporters, non-supporters, signs, volunteers, all voter contact records, etc. — and gave them both to Doug Ford,” said Conservative data expert Mitch Wexler.

And,

If it is in fact gone, it would be a serious blow to the mayor’s re-election hopes. Numerous political strategists involved in the 2010 race say what helped set Ford apart was that voter intelligence, much of it collected by Ford himself over his 10 years as a councillor in Etobicoke.

I’ll try to not to comment on the use of the term “voter intelligence.”  Just in case you’ve been hiding under a rock (not a crack rock, I presume) our mayor has been in a heap of trouble (NSFW) since he was elected.  Actually, even before he was elected.  This isn’t a partisan thing when I say I’m not a fan of my mayor.  This is all about not respecting his behaviour.  But back to the data thing….

Where Rob Ford’s Data Management Went Wrong

Well, pretty much every single thing he has done has been wrong.  At least it feels that way. And sounds and views that way. But if we focus on today’s issue of his reported data loss, I’m thinking he messed up by:

  • Giving source data to an external party without a backup.  When Ford handed over those record boxes full of 10 years of handwritten notes, he lost his source data.  All data deserves protection, even handwritten notes.  We in IT sometimes ignore paper data, but we shouldn’t.  It’s still data.
  • Storing personally identifiable and sensitive data insecurely.  I’m betting those file boxes where sitting next to his desk.  Sure, his desk is in city hall and I’m betting they have decent physical security.  But file boxes aren’t exactly locked cabinets. They also have a way of getting disposed of incorrectly. 
  • Outsourcing data and database management without getting copies of data on a regular basis.   It’s sort of crazy to hand over critical data to a third party for management and not insisting that you get copies of it on a regular basis.  Even if your relationship is strong, people leave companies or they stop working for you (as we see in Rob Ford’s case).  Have you been getting data, models, code, documents from your vendors on a regular basis? You should.
  • Using data collected for a specific reason for another reason.  Allegedly this data was collected by Ford in fulfilling his duties as city councillor.  I’m not sure whether that means it can be used for fundraising and vote elicitation.  Sounds off to me. I wonder if all those people who called Ford asking for help with their trash collection and dead raccoon needs knew they were being added to a campaign database.
  • Waiting until he needed the data to ask for it.  It appears that the Ford brothers waited until it was time to campaign to play “who has the data”. It would be entirely possible (maybe even legally or ethically required) for the outsourcer to destroy all copies of the data when their work ended and the data was given back to Ford.
  • Getting copies of data and losing them.  It’s reported that the data was provided to Rob Ford’s brother, Councillor Doug Ford.  But it appears he lost the data.  That’s not good. Where are those DVDs now?  Again, this indicates that private and sensitive data probably wasn’t treated with the respect it deserves.

As data professionals, I believe it’s our job to ensure that all data is properly managed and protected.  That means monitoring paper and digital data, ensuring that good data management practices are followed, and ensuring that these practices are followed even when we outsource these activities. Please, go find out if anyone in your organization is doing a better job than Rob Ford is.  You might be shocked at what you find.

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